Past tense

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Past tense is a verb form which is marked by time (tense).

The past tense is used for actions in a time which has already happened.[1] In order to explain and understand past tense, it is useful to imagine time as a line on which the past, the present tense and the future tense are positioned.[2]

Words in English have several tenses, including many common past tenses. The two that are used the most are the simple past tense and the perfect tense

Simple past tense[change | change source]

The simple past tense is used for action in past time. It usually uses for story telling or there is in narrative and recount text.

Different verbs change in different ways to make the past tense. The most common way is by ending with ed" or we usually says REGULAR VERB. Many other verbs are irregular, this means that there is no pattern and no easy way to know how the verb changes.

If we want to make a past sentence, here are the formula:

~Verbal sentence~

(+) S + V2 (past verb)

(- ) S + did not / didn't + V1 (present verb)

(?) Did + S + V1 (present verb)

~ Nominal sentence~

(+) S + to be ( was / were) + Noun/adjective/adverb

(- ) S + to be (was / were) + not +Noun/adjective/adverb

(?) To be (was / were) + Noun/adjective/adverb

Example: (+) I went to bandung last week

(- ) I did not go to bandung last week

(? ) did you go to bandung last week?

(+) she was happy this morning

(- ) she was not happy this morning

(?) Was she happy this morning?

Perfect tense[change | change source]

The Perfect is about completion: actions which are completed. The tense refers to a period in the past. In English the Perfect is made by have + -ed or variations of that form.[3]

  • Present perfect refers to a time which begins in the past and continues to the present. Examples: I have lived in Dover since my birth. She has discovered it. She has done it now!
  • Past perfect, or pluperfect, refers to an action before another action in the past. Examples: She had not been home since her parents divorced. I had discovered that he had taken my key.
  • Present continuous progressive perfect: She has been discovering that grammar is not so easy as she thought...
  • Past continuous progressive perfect: They had been finding it difficult.
  • Future perfect refers to an event before a future event. Examples: She will have finished her report for the next board meeting. By now she will have discovered the key.
  • Future continuous progressive perfect: I'm sure she will have been looking for that.


Verb endings: -ed = finished; -ing = continuing

References[change | change source]

  1. Seeley, John. (2009). Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation, p. 109.
  2. Sangmeister, Lisa. (2009). Past Tense in English: From OE to PDE, p. 11.
  3. McArthur, Tom 1992. The Oxford companion to the English language. Oxford #University Press.